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From Tibet to the 'Nine Dragons', Vietnam's Mekong Delta is losing sand

Updated : 2019-01-14 10:10:49

Upstream damming and extensive mining of the Mekong's riverbed for sand is causing the land between the sprawling network of rivers and channels near the mouth of one of the world's great rivers to sink at a pace of around 2 cm (0.75 inches) a year, experts and officials said.

The 4,350 km (2,700-mile) river, known as the Lancang in its upper reaches, flows from China's Tibetan Plateau along the borders of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand, through Cambodia and finally Vietnam, where it forms the delta known in Vietnam as the "Nine Dragons".

Across the region, local authorities are struggling with a rapid pace of erosion that is destroying homes and threatening livelihoods in the Southeast Asian country's largest rice-growing region.

A key cause is the years of upstream damming in Cambodia, Laos and China that has removed crucial sediment, local officials and experts said.

That sediment, vital for checking the mighty Mekong's currents, has also been lost due to an insatiable demand for sand - a key ingredient in concrete and other construction materials in fast-developing Vietnam - that has created a market both at home and abroad for unregulated mining.

A woman stands at her collapsed house damaged by landslide along Mekong river in Can Tho city, Vietnam December 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A woman stands at her collapsed house damaged by landslide along Mekong river in Can Tho city, Vietnam December 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A boy holds a rooster at his collapsed house damaged by landslide along Mekong river in An Giang province, Vietnam December 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A boy holds a rooster at his collapsed house damaged by landslide along Mekong river in An Giang province, Vietnam December 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A boy plays with a ball in front of collapsed houses damaged by landslide along Mekong river in An Giang province, Vietnam December 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A boy plays with a ball in front of collapsed houses damaged by landslide along Mekong river in An Giang province, Vietnam December 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
Houses are seen along Mekong river in Can Tho city, Vietnam December 19, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
Houses are seen along Mekong river in Can Tho city, Vietnam December 19, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
Ships transport sand on Mekong river in Can Tho city, Vietnam December 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
Ships transport sand on Mekong river in Can Tho city, Vietnam December 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A man carries a bag of sand on his shoulder from a ship on Mekong river in Can Tho city, Vietnam December 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A man carries a bag of sand on his shoulder from a ship on Mekong river in Can Tho city, Vietnam December 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A woman sells pork meat at a floating market on Mekong river in Hau Giang province, Vietnam December 19, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A woman sells pork meat at a floating market on Mekong river in Hau Giang province, Vietnam December 19, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A boat transports coconuts past a collapsed house damaged by landslide along Mekong river in Mo Cay town, Vietnam December 18, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A boat transports coconuts past a collapsed house damaged by landslide along Mekong river in Mo Cay town, Vietnam December 18, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
Men stand at their collapsed houses damaged by landslide along Mekong river in Can Tho city, Vietnam December 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
Men stand at their collapsed houses damaged by landslide along Mekong river in Can Tho city, Vietnam December 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A man walks on empty land where houses slid to the Mekong river in An Giang province, Vietnam December 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A man walks on empty land where houses slid to the Mekong river in An Giang province, Vietnam December 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
Men sit at their collapsed houses damaged by landslide along Mekong river in Can Tho city, Vietnam December 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
Men sit at their collapsed houses damaged by landslide along Mekong river in Can Tho city, Vietnam December 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A crane moves sand from a ship on Mekong river in Hau Giang province, Vietnam December 19, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A crane moves sand from a ship on Mekong river in Hau Giang province, Vietnam December 19, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
Ships transport sand on Mekong river in Can Tho city, Vietnam December 16, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
Ships transport sand on Mekong river in Can Tho city, Vietnam December 16, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
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